Dancing With Danger (Goode Girls #3) by Kerrigan Byrne

Chapter 1





London, 1881





An incomparable idiot.

It was the only description for the man blocking Mercy Goode from the murder scene she’d discovered her own self.

And yet he had the audacity to sneer down at her in that condescending way menial men did when granted a little bit of authority. His shiny badge declared him Constable M. Jenkins. A tall but scrawny bit of bones scraped together between comically overgrown muttonchops.

“If you don’t vacate the premises now, I’ll see you sleeping behind bars tonight, and make no mistake about that.” He narrowed beady eyes and loomed in an attempt to intimidate her.

Mercy glared right back. Since she was entirely too short for a proper loom, she bared her teeth to do him one better in the foul expression department.

An errant bee had more capacity to terrify her than this blighter with his ridiculous feathery mustache. From the moment he’d arrived, he’d tried to get rid of her, and that she would not abide.

“See here!” Mercy poked him in the chest. “I’m the one who found the body thus murdered and sent for Scotland Yard. Therefore, I’m a valuable witness at best and a possible suspect at the very least. If you advise me to leave before a detective inspector arrives, he’ll be furious. You could lose your position, which...” She trailed off, scanning the man up and down for any possible signs of capability. “If you want my opinion, might do both you and the London Metropolitan Police a favor.”

The slack-jawed halfwit blinked in mute amazement, his dull brain taking an inordinate amount of time to process her statement.

Mercy used his dumbstruck torpor to sweep around him and slide into the stately, feminine solarium where the corpse sat propped in a high-backed burgundy velvet chair.

Poor Mathilde.

Swallowing a lump of regret so large it threatened to choke her, Mercy’s hands curled into fists. Mathilde had known she was in danger. They’d discussed it at length when the scandalous socialite—bruised, battered, and quite drunk—had come seeking shelter at the Duchess of Trenwyth’s Lady’s Aid Society. The Duchess, along with Mercy’s twin, Felicity, had hatched a plan to secretly smuggle the woman out of the country as soon as humanly possible.

Evidently, not soon enough.

If only they had made other arrangements.

If only Mercy had skipped her weekly appointment last evening and insisted on squiring Mathilde away under the cover of night, instead of allowing the sweet—but unreliable—woman to decide upon the circumstances.

When she wanted to dissolve into frustrated tears, Mercy only allowed herself to indulge in a hitch of labored breath before she bit into the flesh of her cheek. It was imperative she contain herself. She could not show weakness.

Not here.

Not in front of a man who would whip her with it. Who would make her wait somewhere else until she controlled her “feminine hysterics.”

The very idea was intolerable.

“I’m so sorry I failed you,” she whispered to the unnaturally still body. Her fingers itched to brush back one errant lock of what was otherwise a perfect brunette coiffure.

Mathilde had been a beautiful woman in the prime of her thirties. Scandalous, sultry, and... scared.

They’d only ever met in person but thrice. And yet, Mercy felt this tragedy as if a dear friend had passed.

“I vow I will not rest until they find who did this to you,” she whispered.

At those words, a strange, feverish chill washed down her spine and prickled along her nerve endings. She was suddenly bathed in awareness of someone nearby.

Watching.

Glancing about, she only found Jenkins, apparently roused from his stupefied confusion at her feint around his blockade.

Perhaps it was time for her to rethink her position regarding ghosts.

She’d been categorically opposed to the idea of the supernatural in almost every respect.

Until now.

Certainly Jenkins didn’t carry such an aura of malice.

Even though she’d made him cross.

“Oi!” He stormed into the room after her, his expression morphing from one of surprise to suspicion. “The detective inspector isn’t but a moment away, so don’t you dare touch anything.”

“I know better than to disturb a murder scene,” Mercy announced with a droll sniff.

“What makes you reckon she was murdered?” he asked, eyeing her with rank skepticism. “The lady could have very well died in her sleep. You know something you’re not telling?”